Posts Tagged ‘U.S. military’

Congressional commission cites ‘crisis of national security,’ concludes task of rebuilding US military far from complete

November 15, 2018

After two years of full funding for the Pentagon, President Trump has essentially declared victory, and is ready to reverse the trend of ever-rising defense budgets. Last month Trump gave the Pentagon a surprise order to slash upcoming defense spending from $733 billion to $700 billion. From the president’s point of view, the last two defense budget hikes have largely solved the military’s woes, which included aircraft unfit to fly, units unprepared to deploy and stressed troops. “We’re rebuilding our military. We just had approved $716 billion. The year before that, we had $700 billion. So, we’re almost completely rebuilding our military with the latest and the greatest,” Trump said while in France over the weekend.

Image result for F-35, photos

NOT SO FAST: The first shot in the looming battle over next year’s defense budget was fired yesterday by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Inhofe, who suggested that he will oppose Trump’s order to cut planned spending by tens of billions of dollars. The Oklahoma Republican insisted that top line for the Pentagon, overseas wars, and the nuclear arsenal should be at least $733 billion in 2019. That “should be considered a floor, not a ceiling, for funding our troops,” said Inhofe, who will return in January as Senate Armed Services chairman after Republicans held the chamber. Once inflation is factored, that would keep Pentagon funding at current levels with no new growth.

COMMISSION’S ‘CRISIS’ REPORT: Lawmakers now have new ammunition in the fight for a bigger budget. Inhofe was responding to a newly released report, “Providing for the Common Defense,” ordered up by Congress, which paints a grim picture of the Pentagon in crisis. “The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia,” the National Defense Strategy Commission writes in one of its key findings.

The commission, co-chaired by Ambassador Eric Edelman and retired Adm. Gary Roughead, was created by Congress in 2017, and mainly tasked with reviewing Trump’s National Defense Strategy. “We are concerned that the NDS too often rests on questionable assumptions and weak analysis, and it leaves unanswered critical questions regarding how the United States will meet the challenges of a more dangerous world,” the report said. It’s the latest in a series of recent reviews covering U.S. defense strategy over the past eight years, all of them bleak.

“In the 2010 report, we concluded that budget cuts and an increasingly complex international environment were leading to a potential train wreck. In 2014, the aftermath of the Budget Control Act, we said that the BCA was a strategic misstep that was disabling the U.S. because it was facing greater challenges around the world. In this report, I think, what we had to wrestle with was the consequences of all those warnings having been ignored,” Edelman said during a podcast this week with Michael Morell, former acting CIA director and a member of the commission.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was a leading force behind the past two years of defense budget hikes as House Armed Services chairman, said the commission’s report makes clear that Congress should not let BCA spending caps dictate U.S. strategy. “It also echoes some of my own concerns; that we are falling behind on key capabilities, that Congress is not reliably providing appropriate resources, and that we face difficult choices if we are going to provide the country with the defense it deserves,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

IS MONEY REALLY THE ANSWER? Both Edelman and Roughead are set to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee later this month about their findings, which are likely to set the tone of the debate for now. But not everybody is taking them at face value. “Obviously if we’re vastly outspending Russia and China and we’re losing our competitive edge, our problem is not spending,” said Dan Grazier, a fellow at the Project on Government Oversight.

The findings may be used to justify a third year of defense hikes, but the Pentagon should instead complete its ongoing and first-ever full financial audit to see how its money is being spent, argues Grazier. “This report is in the grand tradition of Washington buck-passing. Whenever elected political officials do not want to have to take responsibility for what they anticipate being unpopular political positions, you assign a blue-ribbon task force to do a study and then the blue-ribbon task force comes back with the unpopular policy discussions,” he said.

BULLET POINTS: The Commission report is replete with nightmare scenarios and dire warnings that America’s military advantage has been eroded by years of budget cuts at home and “authoritarian competitors” abroad — especially China and Russia — who are pursuing determined military buildups aimed at neutralizing U.S. strengths. Here are some key conclusions:

  • Due to political dysfunction and decisions made by both major political parties — and particularly due to the effects of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 along with years of failing to enact timely appropriations — America has significantly weakened its own defense.
  • The convergence of these trends has created a crisis of national security for the United States — what some leading voices in the U.S. national security community have termed an emergency.
  • These trends are undermining deterrence of U.S. adversaries and the confidence of American allies, thus increasing the likelihood of military conflict.
  • The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.
  • If the United States had to fight Russia in a Baltic contingency or China in a war over Taiwan, Americans could face a decisive military defeat. These two nations possess precision-strike capabilities, integrated air defenses, cruise and ballistic missiles, advanced cyber warfare and anti-satellite capabilities, significant air, and naval forces, and nuclear weapons — a suite of advanced capabilities heretofore possessed only by the United States.
  • The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/congressional-commission-cites-crisis-of-national-security-concludes-task-of-rebuilding-us-military-far-from-complete

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China ‘on track to meet American military challenge’ in Indo-Pacific

November 15, 2018

China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035 – if not before, according to a commission that advises the US Congress on the national security implications of the US-China trade and economic relationship.

— PLA is already able to contest US ground, air, maritime and information operations in some strategic areas, report says

— The report also warns that as Beijing’s confidence in its army grows, there is a danger that it ‘will use force as a regional hegemon’

South China Morning Post
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 12:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 11:49am
 China will be able to contest US operations throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region by 2035, according to a US report. Photo: Xinhua

In a report to be delivered to the US Congress on Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission said China could already contest US operations in the ground, air, maritime and information domains within the “second island chain”.

The second island chain is a strategic defence line for the United States formed by the Ogasawara Islands, Japan’s Volcano Islands, the Mariana Islands and Palau.

That military capacity presented fundamental challenges to the US armed forces’ long-standing assumption of supremacy in these areas in the post-cold war era, the report said.

The conclusions were based on classified and unclassified hearings with witnesses from government, academia and the private sector, as well as research trips to Taiwan and Japan. Commission members were not granted visas to visit China to conduct research.

The report said that under the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, China had significantly accelerated its military modernisation.

“As military modernisation progresses and Beijing’s confidence in the People’s Liberation Army increases, the danger will grow that [US] deterrence will fail and China will use force as a regional hegemon,” it said.

The PLA’s Strategic Support Force, a unit established in late 2015, poses a fundamental challenge to the US ability to operate effectively in space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the report.

And after years of development, China’s missiles also presented “serious strategic and operational challenges for the US and its allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific”, the report said.

China’s coastguard had also removed all civilian functions and helped Beijing advance its maritime interests, it said.

Beijing has ramped up development and upgrades weapons across all military services, from unmanned underwater vehicles and amphibious aircraft to laser guns and supersonic fighter jets.

In addition, China has built several artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, installing missiles and constructing airstrips in a challenge to the US presence in the region.

China’s DF and HN series missiles have a range of up to 15,000km, putting the entire United States within their reach.

In late September, a Chinese destroyer nearly collided with a US warship in the disputed waters after making what the Americans described as an “unsafe and unprofessional” manoeuvre in an attempt to warn it to leave the area.

And in late October, Xi ordered the military region responsible for monitoring the South China Sea and Taiwan to assess the situation it faced and boost its capabilities so it could handle any emergency.

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/2173258/china-track-meet-american-military-challenge-indo-pacific-2035

The F-35, the great white whale of defense waste

November 14, 2018

Despite the pronouncements of the White House, wasteful government spending is endemic and shows no signs of abating anytime soon. The military, which accounts for half of all federal spending, is not immune. While the media like to remind people of the Pentagon spending $435 for a hammer or $640 for a toilet seat, accounts of true billion-dollar boondoggles often go virtually ignored.

More expensive and potentially deadlier than a hammer or toilet seat are the myriad problems associated with the F-35 fighter jet program. The latest chapter in the saga of the F-35 boondoggle is a recent crash in South Carolina due to yet another malfunctioning Pratt & Whitney engine. It caused the military to temporarily ground all of the Pentagon’s costliest planes.

By Ross Marchand
Opinion
The Washington Examiner

An F-35A Lightning II prepares to land at Hill Air Force Base in Utah in 2013.

After a recent fleet-wide inspection, the Pentagon cleared more than 80 percent of the fleet to resume flying, even though questions abound as to why these issues continue to occur with such frequency. F-35 deployment exercises continue unabated, with F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova bizarrely claiming that “Aircraft deployed are ready for combat.”

Continued research suggests that the F-35’s issues stem from failed contracting and appropriation practices which, for the sake of fairness to taxpayers, should be learned from and significantly reformed.

For many years, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has listed funding for additional F-35s as earmarks not requested by the Department of Defense. Other taxpayer and good government groups have also considered the F-35 to be one of the most egregious examples of pork-barrel projects in the federal budget.

The late Sen. John McCain once called the F-35 “a scandal and a tragedy with respect to cost, schedule, and performance.”

Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James once stated that “the biggest lesson I have learned from the F-35 is never again should we be flying an aircraft while we’re building it.”

They’re right. While recent spending bills included brow-raising line items involving the F-35, such as $1.3 billion for 13 additional aircraft in the last two years, it’s clear that this cronyist project was wasteful from the very start of production.

The jet’s development, which has already cost $400 billion, has been specially crafted in a way to spread the government’s money around to special interests.

2013 expose of the F-35’s problems, written by Vanity Fair’s Adam Ciralsky, noted that this “politically engineered” program was “designed to spread money so far and so wide — at last count, among some 1,400 separate subcontractors, strategically dispersed among key congressional districts — that no matter how many cost overruns, blown deadlines, or serious design flaws, it would be immune to termination.”

And when policymakers give money to those who are well-connected instead of those who are best suited for the job, they have to be prepared for the chaos and cost overruns that come with it.

For example, the engine malfunction that led to the recent F-35 crash was not the first engine problem the jet has had. Throughout the last several years, Pratt & Whitney has had to investigate claims of excessive vibrations and uneven cooling, as well as issues with its combustor, oil seal, and knife-edge seal. Everyone from the FAA to European regulators have gotten involved, and the engines’ problem-ridden past has created significant delays in jet production at a time when demand has reached an all-time high.

Thanks to ineffective and ostensibly well-connected contractors like this one, the F-35 has been in development for nearly 17 years and is seven years behind schedule, all while total acquisition costs have surpassed $406 billion — nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion.

Things will only get worse if the status quo continues unabated. An April 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that operation and maintenance costs for the most expensive weapon system in history will reach $1 trillion.

Federal appropriations and acquisition leaders should wake up and realize that America’s national defense is too critical to design based on political clout rather than strict utility, efficiency, and merit. The failures and problems that cronyism have wrought are bringing us to the brink of a major national security crisis — one that is unacceptable to anyone not living in the D.C. bubble.

For these reasons and more, Congress should think of the hardworking American citizens that are footing the bill and begin putting country over politics.

The failed status quo has gone on for long enough.

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/the-f-35-the-great-white-whale-of-defense-waste

Military Sway at Pentagon Undermines Tenet of Civilian Control, Study Finds

November 14, 2018

Report by former high-ranking officials traces some of the issue to a slow pace in hiring civilian staff members

“Civilian voices appear relatively muted on issues at the center of U.S. defense and national security policy.”

Image result for james mattis, photos

James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of Defense

The military staff at the Pentagon is dominating deliberations over strategy and the deployment of forces to such an extent that it is undermining the principle of civilian control of the armed forces, according to a congressionally mandated study by former high-ranking national-security officials.

“There is an imbalance in civil-military relations on critical issues of strategy development and implementation,” states the study, which is being issued Wednesday. “Civilian voices appear relatively muted on issues at the center of U.S. defense and national security policy.”

The study was prepared by a bipartisan commission established by Congress in 2017 to assess the Pentagon’s defense strategy, which casts China and Russia as the principal threats to U.S. security.

The chairmen of the commission were Eric Edelman, who was an undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration, and Gary Roughead, a retired admiral who served as the chief of naval operations.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disputed the panel’s conclusions. “Everything we do is done under the principle of civilian control of the military,” he said in an interview.

Gen. Dunford said all of his recommendations on military plans and the movement of forces are “run through” the Pentagon’s senior civilian policy official before they are presented to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The commission is scheduled to present its findings later this month to the Senate Armed Services Committee, which authorizes military spending and has been concerned with the state of civil-military relations.

Mr. Mattis, a former Marine general, heads the Pentagon and has a close relationship with Gen. Dunford, a Marine officer who was once one of Mr. Mattis’s subordinates.

The overall pool of civilian policy officials has been seen by many defense specialists as less influential than counterparts in previous administrations. A slow pace in filling civilian slots made Mr. Mattis especially dependent on the uniformed Joint Staff, which reports to Gen. Dunford, during the early part of the defense secretary’s tenure. The role of civilian officials has expanded as more have been hired, some Pentagon officials say.

Still, the commission concluded that the influence of the Joint Staff tends to overpower that of the civilians.

An important area where the commission said civilian officials should have more influence pertains to decisions to move ships, aircraft and other assets around the world in response to changing threats—what the Pentagon calls “global force management.”

“The military has moved in and taken on a more significant role,” said Adm. Roughead in an interview. “It struck us as a commission that the balance has shifted too much.”

John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, a civilian post, disputed the critique, saying in a statement that he works “hand in hand” with the Joint Staff that reports to Gen. Dunford.

Another glaring deficiency, the commission says, is the Defense Department’s civilian analytical capabilities used to determine which weapons and forces to develop, which the report says has greatly atrophied since it was established in the 1960s by former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

The study comes as the Pentagon is contending with multiple threats and the possibility that its budget will level off, or perhaps even decrease, in future years—all of which heightened the debate about whether the Defense Department’s civilian staff members have sufficient influence on strategy and how best to implement it.

Although President Trump has boosted military spending to $700 billion in fiscal 2018, the soaring federal budget deficit has jeopardized the Pentagon’s hopes of receiving sizable spending increases in the 2020 fiscal year and beyond.

“It will flatten out, without question,” national security adviser John Bolton said earlier month, adding that the amount will be sufficient if the Pentagon undertakes procurement reforms and finds other ways to cut costs.

The commission’s study, however, suggests that carrying out the Trump administration’s defense strategy likely would require steady spending increases that could be in the range of  3% to 5% a year.

The study also questions whether the Pentagon has effectively allocated the billions in additional funding that it has already received.

“Many of the additional resources made available so far have been distributed uniformly across the defense bureaucracy so that ‘everybody wins,’ rather than being strategically prioritized to build key future capabilities,” it said.

The commission members include former officials in Republican as well as Democratic administration, including who held prominent roles in overseeing the Pentagon’s plans, strategy and budgets.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at michael.gordon@wsj.com and Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com

Appeared in the November 14, 2018, print edition as ‘Pentagon’s Civilians Eclipsed, Report Says.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/military-sway-at-pentagon-undermines-tenet-of-civilian-control-study-finds-1542171661?mod=hp_listb_pos1

What Macron got wrong while lecturing Trump

November 13, 2018

French President Emmanuel Macron doubtless felt deep self-satisfaction in delivering a public rebuke to President Trump over the weekend. But his smug lecture on the dangers of nationalism ignored both the lessons of history and of today’s political realities.

It was also pretty arrogant of Macron to implicitly slam a US president at a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — a conflict in which France and its allies were saved by American soldiers, thousands of whom lie forever in French soil. Surely a “thanks” was in order.

Editorial
The New York Post

After all, US troops also liberated France a generation later from the very fascist nationalism that Macron seems to ascribe to Trump, with his warning about “old demons coming back to wreak chaos and death.”

But Trump’s “America First” nationalism is not the same as the force that drove both world wars. It does not seek greatness by conquest, nor does it mean “only America.”

It does, however, expect Europe to share global responsibilities, and recognizes that the United States has not been well-served by multinational groups like the United Nations and the European Union — even as it foots so many of the bills.

And, for all the talk about Trump abandoning traditional alliances, this administration has taken strong action in Europe’s defense against Vladimir Putin’s Russia (even if Trump’s rhetoric sometimes suggests otherwise). This, even as nations like Macron’s France forcefully resist confronting Iran.

Macron and the fans of his rebuke of Trump also remain in denial on important social issues, including the rise of immigrant-driven anti-Semitism across Europe and particularly in France. Nor do dark warnings about nationalism make any less of a disaster German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 opening of Europe’s doors to unlimited Middle East migrants.

America’s brand of nationalism is not a “betrayal of patriotism,” as Macron suggests; it’s an affirmation. And it speaks to the American values and commitment that helped France remain a free nation.

FILED UNDER       
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https://nypost.com/2018/11/12/what-macron-got-wrong-while-lecturing-trump/

Why The U.S. Military Is Woefully Unprepared For A Major Conventional Conflict

November 10, 2018

Despite President Donald Trump’s boasting, China, Russia, Iran and others know the true strength and readiness of the U.S. military….

Written and produced by SF Team: Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

https://southfront.org/wp-content/plugins/fwduvp/content/video.php?path=https%3A%2F%2Fsouthfront.org%2Fwhy-the-u-s-military-is-woefully-unprepared-for-major-conventional-conflict%2F&pid=1464

Introduction

In the Department of Defense authored summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States for 2018, Secretary James Mattis quite succinctly sets out the challenges and goals of the U.S. military in the immediate future. Importantly, he acknowledges that the U.S. had become far too focused on counter-insurgency over the past two decades, but he seems to miss the causation of this mission in the first place. U.S. foreign policy, and its reliance on military intervention to solve all perceived problems, regime change and imperialist adventurism, resulted in the need to occupy nations, or destroy them. This leads to the growth of insurgencies, and the strengthening of long simmering religious radicalism and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The U.S. military willfully threw itself headlong into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

General Wei Fenghe, China’s defense minister, meets with his US counterpart James Mattis in Beijing, June 27, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The United States engaged in unnecessary wars, and when these wars were easily won on the immediate battlefield, the unplanned for occupations lead to guerilla insurgencies that were not so easy for a conventional military to confront. The U.S. Army was not prepared for guerilla warfare in urban areas, nor for the brutal and immoral tactics that their new enemies were willing to engage in. They obviously had not reflected upon the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, nor the nature of their new enemies. As casualties mounted due to roadside IEDs, snipers, and suicide bombers hidden amongst civilians, the U.S. military and the defense industry were forced to find ways to protect soldiers and make vehicle less vulnerable to these types of attacks. This resulted in vehicles of every description being armored and new IED resistant vehicles being designed and fielded in large numbers. This in turn, equated to a vast amount of time, effort and money. It also focused both the U.S. military services and the defense industry away from fighting conventional wars against peer adversaries.

After a decade of fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan and almost as long in Iraq, the U.S. leadership decided to destroy the sovereign nation of Libya, and foment a war in Syria immediately afterward. There is no doubt with the knowledge of historic events today, that the CIA and State Department facilitated a foreign invasion of Syria of Islamist radicals. They funded and armed these groups, provided clandestine training, and facilitated the logistical movement of fighters and weapons into a sovereign nation to cause its disintegration. In these two examples they decided not to occupy these countries, but to destroy all semblance of ordered society and replace it with brutally violent chaos. The U.S. political and military leadership seems to have learned that their past adventurism resulted in costly occupations, yet instead of refraining from using the military option as a tool to alter geopolitical realities they did not like, they merely opted to abandon the responsibility of occupation and reconstruction all together.

Benghazi, Libya. An example of democratic progress and stability in North Africa courtesy of U.S. led “humanitarian intervention”.

While Secretary Mattis describes the “near peer” nations China and Russia as “revisionist powers”, it was not these nations that made the irresponsible and reckless decisions that have weakened the U.S. military establishment, nor aim to revise the ill-conceived and executed catastrophes of their American “peers”. They have reached a state of military and technological parity with, and in many cases a position of superiority vis a vis the United States, because they exercised better judgement over the past two decades, invested their time, talent and treasure in developing powerful conventional and nuclear forces, and refrained from using their national defense assets to punish their perceived adversaries in such a way that more damage was caused to themselves. In many ways, the poor example of the United States and its ill-conceived military expeditions, influenced both Russia and China to advance along different paths. Now, without recognizing and acknowledging the failures of leadership and decision making that have lead the U.S. military to a weakened state, the United States has declared that it is now in a period of strategic competition with the two other strongest kids on the block.

In order to understand how Secretary Mattis has come to such a declaration, we have to look at the U.S. military decisions, actions, mistakes, and failures of leadership at the highest levels that have brought us to this point. A brief analysis of the resultant metamorphosis of the United States military from a robust and balanced conventional fighting force, backed up by a viable nuclear deterrent into a force obsessed with occupation and counterinsurgency must be conducted. This must be followed by a study of how the U.S. military has decided to invest its extensive funding, the weapons systems it has pursued, and how it envisions that it is best suited to protect the national security interests of the state. Finally, a comparison must be conducted of the capabilities of its declared strategic adversaries. A conclusion can then be made regarding the ability of the United States military to successfully engage and defeat these adversaries in a future conflict.

Imperial Expansion, Regime Change and Occupation

When the Soviet Union dissolved in December of 1991, a global power vacuum was immediately created. Regardless of the many assurances given to the Gorbachev government (which were finally revealed in the December 2017 National Security Archive releases of official NATO correspondence) that NATO would not expand and that the former Soviet federated states would be included in the established European economic and security apparatus, the United States immediately embarked on a policy of NATO expansion and economic exploitation of post-Soviet territories.

Just scant months earlier, the United States deployed military forces to Saudi Arabia as the backbone of an international coalition to confront and reverse the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This resulted in Operation Desert Shield, the greatest deployment of combined military forces on the part of the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. By January of 1991, not even a month since the U.S.S.R. ceased to be, Operation Desert Shield transitioned to Operation Desert Storm, with the invasion of Iraq and Kuwait. The conventional military power utilized by the U.S. was greatly effective, and most combat systems worked extremely well on the battlefield. Air superiority was soon absolute, as the Iraqi Air Force largely left the skies uncontested. The great success of Operation Desert Storm largely gave the military planners of the Pentagon a false sense of superiority, which as we shall see, led to a number of wrong assumptions and poor decisions being made regarding the future development and transformation of the U.S. military.

M1A2 Abrams tank platoon advancing during Operation Desert Storm. The armored combat vehicles of the U.S. Army proved very effective against a far inferior opponent in this conflict, yet they proved capable and reliable. Logistical requirements; however, did prove to be a challenge.

The first post-Cold War military “humanitarian intervention” conducted by the U.S. was the Yugoslavian civil conflict interdiction of 1995. Predicated upon escalating ethnic atrocities, the NATO intervention was actually designed to make the fracturing of the former Yugoslavian Republic permanent, and to establish a number of pro-NATO, or pro-U.S.-Atlantic establishment nations on the Balkan periphery of Russia. Slovenia became a NATO member state in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2009, and then Montenegro in 2017. At the same time that a civil war was raging in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the U.S. and its Gulf State allies fomented and aided Islamic insurgencies in the Caucasus Republics of the newly comprised Russian Federation in an attempt to further weaken and encircle it. At the conclusion of U.S. intervention in the Balkans, which included the deployment of U.S. ground forces as part of multiple NATO-led operations including Operation Joint Endeavor, Operation Joint Guard and Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the United States would de facto create the statelet of Kosovo. As many as 43,000 NATO troops were serving as part of these operations at any given time between 1995 and 2002.

U.S. Camp Bondsteel in the U.S. sponsored protectorate of Kosovo located in southwestern Serbia. The intervention in Kosovo had nothing to do with humanitarian concerns as usual, but in establishing a permanent military foothold in the Balkans.

As I have described and explained in an earlier analysis entitled “U.S. Army Armored Vehicle Developments in the 21st Century; The Future Combat System gives way to Mobile Protected Firepower”, although the U.S. military leadership was pleased with the performance of its legacy armored vehicles and weapons systems in both Operation Desert Storm and its Operation Joint Endeavor, it was not satisfied with the amount of time required to deploy large combined Arms units via available sealift and airlift capacity. The complex logistics involved in mobilizing and moving heavy armored units does not lend well to rapid deployments, especially over significant distances. Even pre-deployment of heavy armored equipment, either in host countries or loaded in sealift vessels kept on stand-by at forward deployed bases (such as Diego Garcia) or berthed at major seaports of the continental United States, present a whole host of logistical challenges.

The desire to streamline U.S. military logistics, and to create a fighting force that was more rapidly deployable, flexible and yet maintained the highest levels of lethality, and that leveraged advanced information technologies and communications systems led to the genesis of the Future Combat System (FCS). Embracing the FCS concept, the Army set very high deployment goals, which would prove to be unattainable. General Eric Shinseki, then Chief of Staff of the Army, stated that the Army would strive to attain the ability to deploy a combat brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and no less than five divisions in 30 days. Then Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was a vocal supporter of the FCS concept. The U.S. Army would eventually pursue the FCS program, the largest defense acquisition program in U.S. military history with a price tag of approximately $200 billion USD. The program was eventually cancelled in 2009, yet its influence in transforming the U.S. Army have proven substantial, and have had a negative influence on the Army’s ability to fight near peer adversaries in today’s warfighting environment.

The United States military would become a force for invasion and occupation during the Neo-Con era spanning from 2000 to the present. BY 2003, the U.S. was once again invading Iraqi territory, this time during Operation Iraqi Freedom. By this time the U.S. Army had partially realized some aspects of FCS, mainly in the area of rapidly deploying combat ready forces of the Brigade size. Operation Iraqi Freedom was envisioned as a rapid invasion utilizing highly mobile, self-contained, combined-arms combat teams supported by overwhelming airpower. The Iraqi military was far weaker in 2003 than it had been in 1991. It was a shadow of its former self and had been repeatedly targeted over the intervening decade, especially its air-defense and command and control networks. A combined ground force of approximately 148,000 men was deployed and ready for offensive operations in approximately a month and a half. Ground operations of the invasion lasted from March 20th until May 1st, 2003. The initial victory was impressive, but it soon became quite obvious that there was no realistic and pragmatic plan to occupy the country and render aid to a stable and capable new government.

What followed was a time of crisis for the U.S. military. When the U.S. soldiers were not greeted as liberators, and a number of organized and ruthless anti-occupation insurgencies formed, some motivated my patriotism, some my tribal and religious factions, and still others by terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, the soldiers tasked with the occupation of Iraq were woefully unprepared for the task asked of them. U.S. troops deployed to a nation whose minimal civil infrastructure they had just destroyed, were tasked with reconstruction and nation building in a country producing a growing anti-occupation insurgency on many different levels. Convoys and patrols were increasingly the targets of ambushes by insurgents operating along key roadways and within urban centers. Light vehicles and military transports were targeted and destroyed in significant numbers, and the crews had no protection from weapons ranging from small arms and RPGs to extremely powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The Bush administration at the time, who had claimed that the U.S. troops would be widely embraced as liberators, began to scramble for ways to reduce the mounting U.S. casualties. The answer was to add armored protection to all existing vehicles, whether they be HMMWVs, or the LMTVs and HEMMTs of the logistics units. Adding armor to logistical support vehicles not meant to see front line combat greatly reduced their fuel efficiency (of great importance in the logistics arm) and was only accomplished at great cost. The U.S. Army only had one armored security vehicle in active service at this time, the M1117, albeit in small numbers. The decision was made to armor the ubiquitous HMMWV and to give it the tasks of armored patrol, internal security and crowd control vehicle. The HMMWV was designed and used quite effectively as a light utility vehicle and had always performed well in such a role; however, it was never intended for the roles it was called upon to perform after 2003.

An Obsession with MRAPs

A number of different armor packages were developed for the HMMWV, mainly to increase the likelihood of crew survivability. The armored Hummer was merely a stopgap until purpose-built armored vehicles could be developed and fielded in greater numbers. Although effective against high caliber small arms, shrapnel and mines, the M1117 was fielded in very limited numbers in 2003 with military police units, mostly in security duties on U.S. military installations. Large orders of the vehicle were placed after the 2003 Iraq invasion, and the number grew from approximately 50 to over 1,800 units in active service.

M1117 at the head of a column of HMMWVs and an LMTV halted along a road in Iraq sometime after the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military enlisted the help of both the U.S. and international defense industry to produce an armored vehicle that could better serve the needs of an army now faced with occupying not only one rebellious nation, but two. Between 2003 and 2007, the U.S. military would suffer increasing casualties in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theatres of occupation. In the case of Afghanistan, casualties would continue to increase until 2010 before decreasing over consecutive years. Most of these casualties were the result of ambushes with IEDs. Such attacks increased six fold from 2003 to 2007.

The DOD would award billions of dollars in contracts for Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicles (MRAP) between 2003 and the present. The total acquisition cost of the various MRAPs ordered and put into service conservatively exceeds $45 billion USD. The U.S. military has no less than seven different types of MRAPs in service as of today, more than any other nation by far. As the U.S. has reduced its active footprint in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it has sold many of these vehicles to local security forces, and even U.S. domestic police forces, as they are of little use on a contested battlefield where the U.S. military would be fighting a conventional conflict with a powerful adversary. The following list details the main types of MRAPS in use by the U.S. military and costs associated:

M-ATV

The genesis of the MRAP All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) was the desire to gain both the IED level protection of an MRAP and the mobility of a lighter all-terrain vehicle. It was realized early on that the armored M1114 HMMWV variant sacrificed much of its off road performance with the addition of heavy armor plate, yet failed to provide adequate protection. A purpose-built light MRAP was called for. Oshkosh Corporation was awarded the initial $1 billion USD contract to supply the new M-ATV to the U.S. Army, USMC, Air Force and Special Operations Command (which employs special operations elements of all the military services) in mid-2009. The initial contract order grew four fold within a few years, and total M-ATVs produced to date has approached 10,000 units of different variants. The acquisition cost not corrected for inflation likely exceeds $4 billion USD, and additional contracts have been awarded to update and refit all units retained in U.S. service. Many units have since been handed over to allied governments in the Middle East and Europe at far reduced prices. NATO recipients include both Poland and Croatia.  Both the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia have made use of the M-ATV in the conflict in Yemen, and have lost a significant number in combat.

Comparative size of the armored HMMWV and the M-ATV. The ubiquitous “Hummer” was never meant to be an armored car, and hundreds were destroyed by IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cougar

The Cougar is a much more robust vehicle than the M-ATV, resembling a heavily armored truck. It comes in a 4 x 4 and larger 6 x 6 version, with several variants based on these two platforms, depending on the intended role. The Cougar was developed by Force Protection, Inc. in 2004. The company was later acquired by General Dynamics in 2011. The Cougar was rushed into service after a very simple and rudimentary testing program in 2004, as the U.S. military wanted thousands of MRAPs for service in Iraq as soon as possible. The Cougar can trace its lineage to earlier South African designed and fielded vehicles, and was also adopted into British and Canadian service as well.

The Cougar was produced in great numbers between 2004 and 2010 for the U.S. military, with further orders filled by the British military, who have fielded the Cougar in at least 4 different variants. A number of Cougars have also be gifted to other NATO countries with contingents serving in Afghanistan. The U.S. military spent approximately $2.5-3.0 billion USD to acquire its Cougars, and additional funds have been spent to upgrade the roughly 20% of the surviving fleet selected to remain in service.

British Army variants of the 4×4 and 6×6 Cougar (Mastiff and Ridgeback) in a convoy protecting military transports in Afghanistan.

Caiman

Probably the most cost effective MRAP to be developed to meet the requirements of the MRAP Vehicle Program is the Armor Holdings (since acquired by BAE Systems) Caiman. The Caiman initially shared 85% of its construction components with the Stewart & Stevenson/Oshkosh family of military tactical vehicles (FMTV). This family of light to medium trucks have been produced since the early 1980s, with over 74,000 units of varying configuration put into service. This commonality of construction reduced manufacturing, maintenance and inventory carrying costs. The total cost of the Caiman contract (including a later contract to upgrade and improve vehicles to the Multi-Terrain Vehicle standard) amounted to over $1.15 billion USD. The United States sold 1,150 Caiman MRAPs that had been put in surplus status to the U.A.E. to aid in their operations in Yemen.

MaxxPro

Manufactured by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of the Navistar International Corporation, the MaxxPro MRAP is based on a commercial truck chassis and makes use of a bolt-on armor construction as much as possible. This reduces manufacturing cost when compared to welded construction, and allows for easier repair in the field. Approximately 9,000 MaxxPro MRAPs were built for the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force. At an average per unit cost of $515,000 USD, the Maxxpro cost the United States military over $4.6 billion USD, not counting a number of upgrade contracts. Of the 9,000 units constructed and delivered, the U.S. military services announced in 2013 the intension of keeping only a third of these units in service beyond 2014.

Buffalo MPRC

The largest MRAP in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo was designed as an IED and mine clearance vehicle. Manufactured by Force Protection Inc., it is based on the Casspir MRAP that has been in service with the South African Army for decades. The Buffalo in a 6×6 armored vehicle with a maximum service weight of 25,000 kgs. (56,000 lbs.). After building the first 200 units, the Buffalo was upgraded to the A2 standard in 2009, after which an additional 450 units were produced. Over 750 total Buffalos have been produced in total, with 650 of these in service with the U.S. military at a cost of over $1 billion USD.

Force Protection Buffalo IED and Mine Clearance MRAP removing an explosive devise by use of its articulated, hydraulically-operated claw.

The Buffalo’s origins are clearly a response to the dangers posed by a prolonged military occupation in an environment of active guerilla warfare. It was based on a proven design, and has been extremely effective in its intended role. The traditional vehicle for mine clearance or IED disposal would normally be an MBT fitted with mine clearance apparatus. The Buffalo is cheaper to manufacture, maintain and operate than an MBT, and is slightly more flexible in a multitude of environments. It also can accommodate 12 soldiers in addition to a normal crew of two.

Nyala RG-31/33

Manufactured by Land Systems OMC (BAE Land Systems) of South Africa and FNSS of Turkey, the RG-31/33 NyalaMRAP is produced in a 4×4 (RG-31) and 6×6 (RG-33) version to meet the requirements of the Mine Resistant Ambushed Protected Vehicle Program. Although used by the U.S. military in the highest numbers (almost 2,000 vehicles), ten other nations use this MRAP to some degree. The USMC ordered 1,385 of the Mark 5E variant, and operate more RG-31s than any other military service. The total cost of RG-31/33 acquisition is easily in excess of $2.7 billion USD.

JLTV

The most ambitious of all of the MRAP programs, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is meant to replace the HMMWV in use by all of the U.S. military branches. Although the design of the new vehicle is meant to allow it to exceed at a number of military tasks, it is at its core a mine resistant, ambush protected vehicle. The JLTV is suited to take over the tasks of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, special operations, utility and convoy protection. The JLTV is meant to be flexible enough to perform all of these tasks and its very design allows for the upgrading or downgrading of armor and weapons systems tailored to the task required.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2015 that the total acquisition cost of the JLTV across all services would likely be $53.5 billion USD, with a total of 5,500 units for the UMC and 49,099 for the U.S. Army requested. In 2016, the Department of Defense claimed that the total cost of the program would be reduced due to revised unit costs and corrected “cost estimate methodologies”; however, past experience has proven that the Pentagon is usually quite bad when it comes to managing finances. The procurement timetable proposed has the first JLTVs being delivered beginning in 2018, and not being completed until 2040 for the U.S. Army. The 5,500 units requested by the USMC should be delivered between 2018 and 2022.

The JLTV program clearly embodies the U.S. military’s fixation on its experiences in both Iraq and Afghanistan with occupation and the resultant insurgencies motivated by inevitable anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments. Invaders are never seen as liberators, but always as subjugators and occupiers. Occupiers are never safe, as the frontline is everywhere. The U.S. military reacted to protect itself by armoring everything. Light utility vehicles and logistics transport of all categories were armored for protection. Only a nation that plans to invade and occupy other countries, and that will find itself always in a hostile environment will require so many MRAPs and armored transports. No other major military in the world has decided to follow this new U.S. model. Perhaps that is due to the fact that the main duty of their armed forces is to fight defensively in defending their own territory. Armies of national defense have no need to prepare themselves to fight a hostile native population.

A side-by-side comparison of an unarmored HMMWV and an armored JLTV. The new vehicle is twice as heavy as the standard HMMWV.

The JLTV is an armored, all-terrain monster that can carry a payload between 1,600 and 2,300 kgs. (3,500 – 5,100 lbs.), weapons as large as the SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense variant of the Hellfire missile) or the 30mm M230LF automatic cannon, and provide crew survivability in most IED attacks. The DOD has decided to replace both MRAPs and the HMMWV family of utility vehicles with the new JLTV platform. The JLTV is equipped with a 6.6 liter diesel V8 which can generate at least 300 horse power. The vehicle weighs in at between 14,000 and 15,639lbs. depending on the variant. By comparison, the unarmored HMMWV weighed in at 7,700 lbs. fully loaded and made use of a diesel V8 (some models used a turbo diesel) generating a maximum 190 hp. Even considering greater efficiencies achieved through modern internal combustion engine technology, a vehicle that weighs twice as much and requires greater horsepower will lead to higher fuel consumption and require higher levels of maintenance.

Counter Insurgency

Not only did the U.S. military experience with occupation and counterinsurgency shape the armored vehicle procurement projects and design priorities of future armored vehicle acquisitions, but it also resulted in an over-focusing of resources toward a traditionally elite, limited and specialized subset of conventional fighting forces; special operations. All effective modern national defense forces operate a small cadre of special operations units. These units are made up of highly motivated, highly trained and highly skilled soldiers who can perform any number of military tasks, but are specifically focused on asymmetrical, hybrid and very specialized warfare subsets. They complement and enhance conventional fighting forces, and often act as significant force multipliers in any conflict.

Prior to the U.S. wars of occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States operated a robust special operations force comprising of units from all services. The considerable investment in these highly selective forces, the high standards demanded, and the extremely difficult training requirements have always kept these forces small; however this has changed a great deal over the past 17 years. The need for soldiers with a skill set specific to counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan lead to increased focus and demand on special operations. From 2001 to the present, the special operations forces under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) have expanded from 42,800 to approximately 63,500 today. Special operations specific funding has grown four fold in the same time period, from $3.1 billion USD to $12.3 billion USD. According to SOCOM, an average of 8,300 special operators are deployed in missions in as many as 149 nations across the globe on a weekly basis, and 70 nations on any given day.

U.S. Special Operations Command has access to uniquely qualified units from across all branches of the U.S. military.

There is little doubt that the Pentagon’s over-focus on counterinsurgency (the State Department is guilty here as well) has lead to U.S. military adventurism involving it in the internal conflicts of 75% of the countries of the world. Does this clandestine military involvement in the civil or regional strife of most of the planet really have anything to do with U.S. national security? Does it make the U.S. any safer, or is it only creating more enemies? SOCOM has even deployed assets to clandestinely train amongst the civilian population of the United States itself, a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

This disproportional over-emphasis on special operations has resulted in an atrophying of more traditional martial structures and establishments. While the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have stayed at the forefront of modern armor and artillery development, and have advanced the related tactics, the United States has fallen far behind. Even the Peoples Liberation Army has made great strides in these conventional warfare realms in comparison to the United States. The United States surely has the economic resources, and the technical capability to close the gap, but the focus of the military needs to be realigned toward conventional warfighting.

Secretary Mattis has obviously recognized the need to focus higher procurement towards conventional forces, as well as fund R&D efforts into better field artillery, rocket artillery, armored fighting vehicles such as the AMPV, and a new main battle tank (MBT). In identifying near peer adversaries as the greatest national security threat, Secretary Mattis realizes that the U.S. must waste no time in closing the technological and quality gap that now exists between the conventional fighting forces of the United States and Russia and China respectively.

A Navy in Disarray

While the ground forces of the United States have suffered from two decades of occupation and counterinsurgency, which has morphed them from a balanced, combined arms conventional fighting force, into a force obsessed with IEDs, insurgents and guerilla warfare, the U.S. Navy seems to have lost any idea of its national security role. After two decades of enjoying uncontested control of the seas and the ability to use aircraft carrier-borne airstrikes to pummel inferior adversaries, none of which possessed a viable navy or air force, nor a modern air defense network or shore-based anti-naval capability, the U.S. Navy has seemed determined to sail further into the realm of irrelevancy in any future conflict. Unless it intends to engage in battle against significantly weaker opponents, the U.S. Navy will not possess an advantage over its two most powerful possible adversaries, Russia and China.

The United States Navy has not engaged in a major naval engagement with a major adversary since the closing days of World War Two. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union largely kept one another at bay, with very close competition leading to significant advancements in naval warfare. They did not engage in any verified hostile actions. Although the U.S. Navy engaged in combat with Libyan military forces in 1986 in the Gulf of Sidra, as well as sunk a small force of Iraqi Navy vessels of small displacement at the “Battle of Bubiyan” (not really much of a battle at all and UK Navy helicopters did most of the fighting), these engagements were largely one-sided and no one could ever say that the outcomes were a surprise. Regardless, the U.S. Navy apparently has decided that it is an indomitable force that can go wherever it pleases and no one can stand in its way. Such hubris and arrogance are one of the reasons why it is in such poor shape today. The other reason must surely be attributed to a military industrial complex that has sold the service on an expensive pipe dream of wonder weapons that have failed to live up to their hype. All to the tune of huge profits. The following are the most egregious examples:

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

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Based on a flawed concept from the start, of a small surface combatant that could make use of modularity to tailor it to specific tasks as opposed to a traditional multi-purpose design, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was largely doomed for a number of reasons. Two different designs were awarded contracts, the trimaran Independence Class designed by General Dynamics, and the mono-hull Freedom Class designed by Lockheed Martin. The decision to produce two different designs to meet the needs of a single class should have been seen as problematic. Here the Navy accepted the responsibility and costs associated with maintaining two different platforms, with separate maintenance needs and schedules, not to mention two separate training programs for LCS crews.

The concept of the LCS was also divergent in many respects, and quite frankly, too much was expected of a ship that was smaller in size than a conventional frigate. The U.S. Navy expected the vessels to marry significant striking power, with modularity tailored to just about every form of modern naval warfare, and new networking and information technologies that would reduce the required crew to a minimum. What resulted was what those serving in the force would begrudgingly coin the “Little Crappy Ship”. The aluminum and composite (Independence Class) and lightweight steel (Freedom Class) hulls of the ships provide little armored protection, offensive striking power is far from adequate for either surface warfare or fire support for forces deployed inland, the platform has yet to meet anti-submarine requirements, and the reduced crew size has been determined to be unmanageable.

This image of the construction of USS Independence LCS-2, clearly illustrates the aluminum structure of the hull. Aluminum offers little armored protection, burns vigorously at high temperature, and led to increased corrosion of steal propulsion components in areas where the dissimilar metals were in close proximity below the waterline.

As a result of its overwhelming failure to meet the expectations of the U.S. Navy or Congressional oversight, the total fleet size of LCS vessels has been reduced from the original 50 planned down to 32. Project cost overruns, a number of high profile system failures, and the smaller fleet size have resulted in a total cost of $12.4 billion USD for the first 26 vessels. The U.S. Congress capped the per-unit cost at $480 million per ship, bringing the theoretical total cost to $15.5 billion USD. All for a ship that has a minimal chance of surviving most modern naval combat scenarios. There is little wonder why the U.S. Navy has decided to start building a multi-purpose frigate, dubbed the FFG(X), to pick up where the LCS has failed.

 DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class

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If the LCS was not a huge and unequivocal disappointment, then the much vaunted stealth destroyer, the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class was a total embarrassment and unmitigated failure.  Envisioned as a high-tech game changer, the DDG-1000 was supposed to make use of powerful new technologies, overwhelming firepower, and massive power generation, all wrapped in stealth that would render it invisible. Although designed as a multi-mission surface combatant, added emphasis was put on naval surface fire support (NSFS) while operating in littoral waters. Due to a number of factors, mostly the exorbitant cost of the program, the Navy is now trying to find a role for the Zumwalt class vessels.

Originally, the Navy intended to build 32 of these stealth destroyers, yet the exorbitant initial cost plus huge cost overruns led the Navy and the U.S. Congress to reduce the fleet to 24, then 16, then 7, and finally to only 3 vessels. Correspondingly, the cost per vessel increased tremendously, as did the cost of all class-specific systems including weapons systems, power generation and propulsion systems. Cost per vessel stands at over $7.5 billion USD.

The 155mm Mark 51 advanced gun system (AGS) deck guns designed specifically for the DDG 1000s were made to fire guided rounds over a range in excess of 80 nautical miles, with a circular error probable (CEP) of just 50 meters (160ft.). Each DDG 1000 is equipped with two AGS on the forward deck. These guns were designed to strike shore targets accurately from coastal waters in support of allied ground forces and amphibious landing forces. Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems developed the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) for use in the AGS, but due to the now 3 vessel fleet, the per unit cost of each LRLAP had risen to over $800,000 USD. The Navy had already procured 90 rounds before the decision was made to cease purchasing the rounds due to the prohibitive costs.

The DDG-1000 utilizes the same MT-30 Rolls Royce gas turbine engines as the Freedom Class LCS vessels; however, in the case of the destroyers the gas turbine is linked to a massive electrical grid that not only powers the electric motors that propel the vessel, but just about every other system onboard, including the weapons systems. The arrangement is proving problematic, as the first two vessels in class have both experienced main engine failures and damages. The USS Michael Monsoor DDG-1001 suffered damage to the turbine blades of one of its main engines during sea trials in February of this year. The MT-30 engine will have to be replaced at the cost of $20 million USD. The USS Zumwalt DDG-1000 famously broke down during its transit from Maine to San Diego and had to be towed from the Panama Canal to its new home port.

The U.S. Navy is now struggling to find a new niche for the DDG-1000s. Now that its NSFS mission is a non-starter, it is being adapted as a platform to strike inland targets with land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) and engage other surface ships with an anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) that has yet to be accepted into the service. The DDG-1000s lack a strong anti-air warfare (AAW) capability, and would thus be tied to other fleet components such as the Arleigh Burke Class DDG-51s and Ticonderoga Class CGs which have strong AAW capabilities. In an attempt to utilize the USS Zumwalt, the Navy has added legacy weapons systems, radars and communications antennas to the stealthy superstructure, undoubtedly negating its minimal radar signature. It remains to be seen what munitions will be provided for the two AGS turrets, as no munitions other than the cost prohibitive LRLAP exist.

The latest revision of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class lead vessel’s once smooth and unblemished superstructure is now marred by various external sensory and communications arrays. Two rear deck guns for close-in defense have also been added.

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class

USS Gerald R. Ford

As if the U.S. Navy was not content with wasting $38 billion USD on the failed LCS and DDG-1000 programs, an even more grandiose undertaking was envisioned for the service that would revolutionize the all too important and largely obsolete “super carrier”. It is a widely accepted fact that the U.S. Navy has been obsessed with the aircraft carrier since World War II and the pivotal naval battles between the U.S. Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy. This obsession is alive and well to this day, seemingly immune to the realities of modern missile technology, especially in regard to guidance, speed, range, and the advent of armed and semi-autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) of increasing lethality.

The U.S. Navy embarked on a program to replace the existing Nimitz Class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers currently comprising the central component of the aircraft carrier strike groups (ASG), of which the service operates 10 (with the additional CVN-65 Enterprise in reserve), in 2005 with the advanced construction of CVN-78. In 2008 the U.S. Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding worth approximately $5.1 billion USD to build the first in a series of four such carriers. The goal is to build each carrier in four year periods under the current funding schedule. The Gerald R. Ford Class was supposed to take advantage of a number of new technologies and experience significantly improved efficiencies in aircraft carrier operations over the preceding Nimitz Class.

While the initial cost estimate for CVN-78 was around $10 billion USD (U.S. Congress had caped it at $10.5 billion USD in 2007), the total cost for the vessel has exceeded $13 billion USD as of May of this year when it was revealed that the Advanced Weapons Elevator and a main thrust bearing had suffered damage in sea trials and required repair. The CVN-78 is by far the most expensive warship ever constructed. In a controversial move, it was decided to try and incorporate a number of new, unproven systems in the new design. In retrospect, this decision was bound to result in cost overruns and a more problematic breaking-in period. New systems integrated into the Gerald R. Ford include an electro-magnetic launching system (EMALS), advanced aircraft arresting system, advanced weapons elevator system, dual band radar (DBR), and a more powerful nuclear reactor.

ford class nimitz class aircraft carrier

A Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, bottom, compared with a Ford-class carrier, top. Business Insider

There was much discussion in the Navy regarding the wisdom of introducing so many new technologies in a single platform. Many senior officers argued that there were bound to be serious delays in working through both the foreseeable and unforeseeable problems associated with rendering so many new technologies operational. This opinion turned out to be of merit, as the Gerald R. Ford immediately experienced problems with just about all of its new systems. The vessel has experienced two main propulsion malfunctions over the past year, the advanced arresting gear has proven unreliable, and the EMALS (as well as other “critical systems”) has displayed “poor or unknown reliability” according to the Navy Operational and Test Evaluation Force. In early testing, the EMALS was unable to launch F-18 strike aircraft at weights even close to a full combat load. All of these problems or shortcomings were revealed during sea trials and the vessel returned to shipyard in Newport News, Virginian on July 15th, 2018 to undergo extensive repairs and improvements.

In should have been of little surprise to most naval architects, engineers, and naval line officers who have held vessel commands, that the above mentioned problems were inevitable. The big question is why the leadership of the Navy decided upon such a platform at all. What is the point of investing so much money and effort into such a large and advanced vessel, regardless of the unproven nature of many of the critical systems, when aircraft carriers have become so vulnerable to modern anti-ship missiles? Of even greater significance, why invest so much in a new carrier and not invest in increasing the range and striking power of the carrier air wing? An aircraft carrier is worthless without a powerful and flexible air wing element.

Carrier Air Wing Vulnerabilities

As much as President Trump and various administration officials and Senators tout the power of the U.S. military, often citing an increasing defense budget as an indicator of strength, efficiency and effectiveness, there is little doubt that U.S. naval aviation has atrophied over decades of misuse, neglect and poor decision making at the highest levels. U.S. naval aviation is arguably in its worse state since the opening days of the Pacific Theatre of operations during the Second World War. Not only is it in disrepair, but it is ill-equipped for a fight against a peer adversary.

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Let us address the first issue, the ever shrinking air wing with its shrinking range. In the last decade of Cold War naval competition between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R., the Nimitz Class aircraft carriers deployed with nine, or even ten squadrons of fixed-wing aircraft. Today, that has been reduced to six. Of greater importance, the only aircraft utilized for combat operations is the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet with all of its inherent shortcomings, most importantly its limited operational range of 370 nautical miles (full strike combat weapons load and fuel). The aircraft it replaced, the A-7 Corsair II and A-4 Skyhawk in the Navy and the F-4 Phantom in the USMC, all had much longer operational ranges and all but the A-4 had greater weapons payload capacity. The F/A-18 is a jack of all trades and a master of none. In an attempt to lower costs (although few combat aircraft has ever operated at lower cost than the A-4 Skyhawk) by using one airframes for all roles, the U.S. Navy has put all of its eggs in one basket, and that basket is not up to the task. This is not to say that the F/A-18 Hornet and F-/A-18E/F Super Hornet are poor aircraft. The plane merely cannot do all of the things asked of it as well as many other aircraft. What has resulted, is an aircraft carrier air wing that is less capable in all respects, and cannot compete and excel in a future conflict with a peer adversary.

This image clearly illustrates the ordinance payload capacity of the A-4 Skyhawk. It could carry 9,900lbs. of munitions on 5 external hardpoints. It had an effective combat radius from an aircraft carrier of over 700 miles, and a maximum range of 2,000 miles.

Although the improved F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is significantly larger than its predecessor, and gains about 100 nautical miles in range due to larger internal fuel capacity, it still lacks the required range needed to protect its carrier. Not surprisingly, even though there was a better option, the Navy decided to use F/A-18s for aerial refueling duties as well. The S-3 Viking had been kept in service as a carrier borne aerial tanker, having given up its original role as an ASW aircraft, and was superior to the F/A-18 in this respect. Although most S-3s in service still have approximately 12,000 hours of service life left on their airframes, the Navy pushed ahead with their retirement in 2009. With a much greater range than the F/A-18 and a fuel capacity of 16,000 lbs., the S-3 was a better and far cheaper solution. The fact that it was a far cheaper option was probably its downfall. Profit drives the U.S. military industrial complex, not efficiency or performance.

The only fixed wing aircraft that operate from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers today are the F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18E Super Hornet and E-2C and E2-D Hawkeye AEW&C aircraft.

The second issue, which is perhaps more damning, is the fact that the F/A-18 squadrons that the Navy relies on to conduct almost all carrier air wing duties including attack/strike missions, air superiority, fleet defense, buddy refueling, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surveillance, are in an alarming state of disrepair. The Navy announced in February of 2017, that two thirds, or 62% of all F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets were unserviceable due to maintenance issues. Twenty-seven percent of these aircraft were undergoing major maintenance depot work, not minor or preventive maintenance. Of the 542 total F/A-18 and E/F-18 Hornets, only 170 were mission capable. Fast forward one year and a new and increased defense budget, and the Navy is still a long way from solving the shortfall in available replacement parts just to meet normal maintenance requirements. The decision was also made to take 140 of the oldest single seat Hornets (A/C variants) in the Navy and either cannibalize them for parts or transfer them to USMC squadrons that are experiencing similar maintenance issues. In the case of the USMC, they have been waiting so long for new F-35Bs that their legacy F-18s are falling into disrepair.

Maintenance crews performing repairs on an F/A-18 aboard a carrier. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps must address the maintenance crisis plaguing the services, yet the problem cannot be remedied at this level. Only a reduction in the tempo of deployments, flight operations or the provision of added funding will alleviate the issue which will be determined by the White House and Congress.

Has anyone asked the question, “What good is an advanced, gigantic aircraft carrier with an air wing that is limited in range and capability?” If the U.S. Navy does manage to get the first three Gerald R. Ford Class carriers in service, how many F/A-18E Super Hornets will be mission capable to fly from them? Will the F-35C and F35B Joint Strike Fighters meant to complete the complement of strike and fighter aircraft going to finally be available for deployment? Seeing that the F-35 does not close the “missile gap” that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers in general, is the Navy soliciting the defense industry to produce a carrier-borne aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, to correct this obvious weakness? Russian and Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles can strike U.S. CSGs long before their aircraft can get within range of striking the territories of either of these near peer adversaries. This “missile gap” will not be rectified anytime soon.

The One-Size-Fits-All Fighter Aircraft

After a short review of the Navy’s decision to settle on a single airframe to fill all of the roles of the carrier air wing, it should come of little surprise that the Pentagon would come to a similar decision on a much broader scale. A cursory study of combat aviation history has proven that there is no one-size- fits-all solution to the many combat functions performed by military aviation. It appears that the decision to introduce a multi-role fighter making use of many new technologies and heavily reliant on stealth to be effective in modern aerial warfare for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and USMC was more about making huge profits for the defense industry and providing jobs to American workers than it was about providing the U.S. military with a superior tool.

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The story of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is a cautionary tale of a weapons development program that was ill conceived and soon spiraled out of control.  Perhaps the most controversial and scandalous of any such program, the JSF is the costliest weapons program in world history. Newly revised estimates from the Pentagon put the cost of development and procurement of the 2,056 fighters that the DOD wants at $406.1 billion USD. The total cost to procure these aircraft and maintain them over the 20 year life span of the aircraft exceeds $1.5 trillion USD.

While the F-35A first flew in 2006, the only U.S. military branch to declare the F-35 operation and to use it in combat is the USMC. The F-35 was developed from the outset for export to allied nations, and Israel has used the F-35 for strikes against targets in Syria. It is important to note that Israel has relied heavily on its decades old squadrons of F-15 and F-16 multi-role aircraft to bear the brunt of most combat missions. Approximately 300 units of all versions have been produced so far for both the U.S. military and foreign militaries, yet only Israel and the USMC have declared the aircraft combat ready. A major issue facing the program is the fact that aircraft manufacturing began years before the plane was deemed fit for operational deployment, largely because so many deficiencies have been identified and have had to be rectified. This was the result of concurrency, a procurement process that allowed for production of the aircraft prior to final approval of the design. It was agreed that all deficiencies identified would eventually be addressed and rectified in airframes already manufactured at a later date in order to bring them up to the latest standard.

Not only has the F-35 not attained wide operational status seventeen years after its first flight, but it has pulled an exorbitant amount of funding from existing, combat proven aircraft. What could have been done to maintain and improve existing squadrons of F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, and F/A-18 Hornets currently in varying states of disrepair and serviceability? The idea of replacing all of these front line aircraft with the F-35 is laughable. What kind of imperial hubris and institutional tunnel vision could have led to such an ill-advised decision?  The answer is the institutionalized corruption and waste of the U.S. military industrial complex. It continues to leave the United States less protected, and sends American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen into combat with increasingly less capable weapons.

Atrophy and Exhaustion

The U.S. military has been engaged in counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan for over seventeen years. The disastrous invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya, and counterinsurgency operations in a host of nations including, but not limited to Yemen, Somalia, Niger and Nigeria, have all taken a toll on the U.S. military. Not only has a great deal of military hardware been destroyed, but a great deal of equipment has been worn out and essentially must be retired from service. More importantly, the constant deployments have undermined the personnel needs of all services, with thousands of men having been killed or physically and psychologically maimed for life. Tens of thousands of the most skilled commissioned and non-commissioned officers have left the services, many of them having served multiple combat deployments.

The fact that 62% of U.S. Navy’s F-18s are not mission capable is not an anomaly. In 2017, approximately 72% of all U.S. Air Force aircraft were not flight worthy. Many of the airframes are quite old, yet well within their engineered service life, but most are in need of maintenance. Both the Navy and Air Force claim that there is not enough money in their respective budgets to procure the needed spare parts to keep these aircraft flying. One would wonder that if this is the case, why tens of billions of dollars are being poured into new aircraft when existing fleets are being left in disrepair. The decisions being made in the upper echelon of the DOD are quite perplexing for the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling to keep weapons and vehicles ready for action.

The U.S. Army finds itself looking for buyers of surplus MRAPs, vehicles of little utility in a major conventional war with a peer adversary, while at the same time lacking spare parts and munitions for armored vehicles and artillery systems. While the Army has made some progress in procuring the first of the 49,099 JLTVs it wants, it is far behind in all other armored vehicle procurement and development programs. BAE has delivered the first batch of 29 AMPVs to the U.S. Army for extensive testing before the decision can be made to start low rate initial production (LRIP). Once the LRIP begins, it is estimated that BAE will be able to produce approximately 262 units annually, unless the company’s main manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania is expanded. The initial contract is worth $1.6 billion USD. The Army wants at least 3,000 AMPVs of six different main variants to replace the thousands of M113 armored vehicles still in service. The M113 first saw service in 1962 and a replacement for the venerable vehicle has been required for decades.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made it crystal clear in his National Defense Strategy that the U.S. must rebuild its conventional warfare capabilities. The U.S. Army’s proposed 2019 budget lays bare the new priorities of a service facing a major transition in priorities. Procurement of tracked combat vehicles, as well as artillery rounds, rockets and missiles account for much of this latest budget request. Procurement is up by 18.4% over the previous year, with procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles up 84% over the previous year. Although upgrading of the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer to the M109A7 level is down by 56% compared to 2018, procurement of 155mm artillery rounds is up a whopping 800%.

The percentage of total procurement directed toward weapons and tracked combat vehicles in the 2019 proposed budget denotes that the U.S. Army recognizes its weakness in conventional warfighting capability.

This chart clearly shows the desire on the part of the U.S. Army to upgrade and rearm conventional capabilities. 155mm artillery rounds and Army Tactical Missile System upgrades to the M207 MLRS are at the top of the list, followed by MBT upgrades and acquisition of new AMPV vehicles.

As the U.S. Army attempts to rebuild its aged and depleted armored brigade combat teams and conventional and rocket artillery, the U.S. Navy and Air Force are facing their own challenges. The Navy finds itself in a position that is far from enviable, but was very easy to predict. Having dumped $38 billion USD into two failed new classes of warships and a further $13 billion into a new aircraft carrier that will likely not become operational until 2022, the service is currently in the process of realigning its priorities. The service is struggling to procure the new VirginiaClass SSN and Columbia Class SSBNs that are required to ensure the viability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent triad well into the foreseeable future. These defensive weapons programs, which are integral to U.S. national security, could have benefitted greatly from the $50 billion wasted on the LCS, DDG-1000 and Gerald R. Ford programs. Russia and China have spent the same time wasted by the U.S. Navy on updating and modernizing their own submarine forces, chiefly their ballistic missile submarines.

Institutional Corruption

If one had to identify the main reason behind the utter failure of the U.S. political establishment and military leadership, both civilian and in uniform, to identify and prioritize weapons programs and procurement that was truly in line with the national defense needs of the country, it would be the institutional corruption of the U.S. military industrial complex. This is not a fault of one party, but is the inevitable outcome of a thoroughly corrupted system that both generates and wastes great wealth at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few.

Massive defense budgets do not lead to powerful military forces nor sound national defense strategy. The United States is the most glaring example of how a nation’s treasure can be wasted, its citizens robbed for generations, and its political processes undermined by an industry bent on maximizing profitability by encouraging and exacerbating conflict. At this point it is questionable that the United States’ could remain economically viable without war, so much of its GDP is connected in some way to the pursuit of conflict.

There is no doubt that the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense in an Orwellian sleight of hand in 1947, just a few years after end of World War II. The military industrial complex grew into a monolith during the war, and the only way to justify the expansion of the complex, was by finding a new enemy to justify the new reality of a massive standing military, something that the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids. This unlawful state of affairs has persisted and expanded into a rotten, bloated edifice of waste. Wasted effort, wasted wealth and the wasted lives of millions of people spanning every corner of the planet. Tens of thousands of brave men and women in uniform, and millions of civilians of so many nations, have been tossed into the blades of this immoral meat grinder for generations.

President Donald Trump was very proud to announce the largest U.S. military budget in the nation’s history last year. The United States spent (or more accurately, borrowed from generations yet to come) no less than $874.4 billion USD. The declared base budget for 2017 was $523.2 billion USD, yet there are also the Overseas Contingency Operations and Support budgets that have to be considered in determining the total cost. The total DOD annual costs have doubled from 2003 to the present. Yet, what has the DOD really accomplished with so much money and effort? Very little of benefit to the U.S. tax payer for sure, and paradoxically the exorbitant waste of the past fifteen years have left every branch of the U.S. military weaker.

The U.S. Congress has the duty and responsibility of reigning in the military adventurism of the executive branch. They have the sole authority to declare war, but more importantly, the sole authority to approve the budget requests of the military. It is laughable to think that the U.S. Congress will do anything to reign in military spending. The Congress and the Senate are as equally guilty as the Executive in promoting and benefitting from the military industrial complex. Envisioned as a bulwark against executive power, the U.S. Congress has become an integral component of that complex. No Senator or Representative would dare to go against the industry that employs so many constituents within their state, or pass up on the benefits afforded them through the legalized insider-trading exclusive to them, or the lucrative jobs that await them in the defense industry and the many think tanks that promote continued prosecution of war.

Possible Reforms

It would be quite simple for the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the current endemic problems that have rendered it weaker and less prepared for a major conventional conflict with a peer adversary. The greater challenge is transforming the relationship between the federal and state governments back to the constitutionally intended one, and to dissolve the powers of the now allied executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government. This would undermine the ability of the military industrial complex to coerce the nation into working against the interests of the states and the citizenry. The military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves it can only exist when power is greatly concentrated in a federal system.

For the sake of argument, if the political will could be found to work against the military industrial complex in the interests of true national defense and fiscal responsibility, the following steps could be taken immediately to rectify the many problems facing the military services of the United States:

The U.S. Army

Abandon the obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation and realign the focus of the Army on the defense of the homeland and a handful of historical allies. Rebuild the Army as a lean and well-equipped conventional fighting force. The most highly trained and experienced cadres of special operations forces should be retained, with other members dispersed to more conventional infantry, airborne and reconnaissance units. Most of these men would be moved to reserve status. Personnel should be cut by at least 25%, the majority retained moved to reserve status, and many overseas bases and operations ceased. The focus should be on defense of the nation’s own territories, while also safeguarding the economic interests and maritime trade lanes that are the lifeblood of any nation.

All legacy systems that have proven capable and efficient on the modern battlefield should be refurbished and upgraded to the most modern standard. The M2 Bradley modernization program should be continued, and the AMPV program given increased priority so that the thousands of M113 vehicles can finally end their 56 year tour of duty. MRAP inventories should be reduced to the very minimum and all surplus units sold off to recoup some of the expense incurred in their procurement and the money directed into offsetting procurement costs of new AMPVs and JLTVs.

The JLTV platform is a modular, easily upgradable light tactical vehicle that can be tailored to fit the mission. Although most units should be the basic utility variant, many will need to be acquired to fill the roles of light armored reconnaissance, armored security, convoy security, and light special operations vehicles. An air-droppable airborne armored fighting vehicle should be developed based on the JLTV. The U.S. airborne forces have lacked any real armored fighting vehicle that can accompany them in parachute operations since the M551 was retired in 1996. An up-armored JLTV equipped with a 30mm autocannon would serve as a good stopgap until a purpose built tracked vehicle could be designed. The venerable and ubiquitous HMMWV should maintain its utility role in all non-combat formations, as well as the basis for the Avenger light anti-aircraft missile system for years to come.

Of greatest importance is the rejuvenation of the armored and mechanized units of the U.S. Army. The M1126 Stryker family of wheeled armored vehicles cannot bear the weight of a conventional conflict with either Russia or China. The M1A2SepV3 MBT upgrade, including the addition of the Trophy APS should be afforded adequate funding, yet the greatest need of the Army is the replacement of the M113 in combat units.  The U.S. Army’s proposed 3,000 unit procurement of AMPVs is a good start.

The artillery arm of the U.S. Army must gain the attention it has lacked since the dissolving of the Soviet Union and the success of Operation Desert Storm. U.S. military planners and the leadership of the DOD must realize the continued importance of both conventional and rocket artillery on the modern battlefield. The U.S. Army only operates two self-propelled artillery systems, the M109 Paladin and M270 MLRS. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as both systems are maintained, upgraded and fielded in sufficient number. The M109A7 upgrade program must gain greater funding in the immediate future.

The U.S. Navy

The LCS and DDG-1000 programs are a national disgrace and should be declared as such. The two existing DDG-1000s should be used as test beds for future engineering and weapons systems. The third vessel should be cancelled immediately. As for the LCS, the existing fleet should be used for littoral patrol duties, and all units currently under construction or planned should be cancelled. Enough money has been wasted on these horribly conceived and even more horribly manifested examples of the monumental corruption and waste so integral to the U.S. defense industry.

Freedom Class LCS (background) and Independence Class LCS (foreground). Arguably two of the most monumental failures of warship design in modern history. A cautionary tale of waste and ineptitude.

The FFG(X) program to design a modern yet conventional multi-purpose frigate for the U.S. Navy should be fully embraced. The new frigate should adhere to the traditional naval warfare duties of a frigate and should be designed to sufficiently fulfill a balance of AAW, ASW, and surface warfare missions.  In conjunction, priority should be given to procurement of the new DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Flight III. The Arleigh Burke has been the backbone of the U.S. Navy since it entered service. It is a well-designed, balanced, flexible and powerful naval combatant of significant displacement. It puts the LCS and the Zumwalt to shame in every respect, and has existed as a symbol of U.S. Navy power and presence across the length and breadth of the globe since 1991.

It is almost unconscionable that with the richest and most accomplished history of aircraft carrier aviation under its belt, that the U.S. Navy could not come up with a better design for the next generation of CVNs than the Gerald R. Ford Class. Perhaps the namesake of the lead vessel in the class was well chosen, as President Ford was far from a memorable performer; however, the wisdom of the entire program from its very inception must be questioned. The U.S. Navy must outgrow the “super carrier” fixation. There is a future for aircraft carriers, yet on a far different pattern than what the U.S. Navy has operated for the past 50 years.

The greatest area of concern for the U.S. Navy is the weakness of the carrier air wing, a weakness that will not be fundamentally corrected by the introduction of the F-35 in U.S. Navy and USMC service aboard U.S. carriers. A new, longer range fleet defense aircraft akin to a modern F-14 Tomcat must be developed. In addition, a new attack aircraft must be developed with a range that exceeds that of the F-18 Super Hornet by a factor of 100%. It is hard to believe that the F-4 Skyhawk had an operational combat radius exceeding 700 miles (2,000 mile maximum range), twice that of a Super Hornet. Additionally, the S-3 Viking must be re-tasked as a carrier borne aerial tanker, and the many airframes now mothballed, yet with thousands of hours of use left, need to be repurposed to this task. The current carrier air wing as it stands, even with the introduction of the F-35, is of little utility against a peer adversary such as Russia or China.

S-3 Viking in use as a carrier borne aerial refueling tanker. Even without significant modification, this stout little aircraft can carry 16,000 lbs. of fuel. The US Navy has 108 of these aircraft sitting in storage at a military aircraft storage facility in Arizona.

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The United States must acquire both an SSN and SSBN to replace the Los Angeles and Ohio Class vessels that are approaching the end of their service lives. There is no greater defensive role for the U.S. Navy in ensuring the security of the nation than the continued operation of its attack and ballistic missile submarine forces. Both Russia and China understand this, and have greatly modernized their own submarine forces. Much of the success they have achieved in pushing the envelope of submarine design was due to their intense competition with a U.S. Navy submarine force that was always at the cutting edge of sub-surface warfare.

Conclusion

The United States stands at a crossroads in many respects, and the nation’s military equally so. All empires experience a period of over-expansion, military, economic and political over-reach and imbalance. The United States has followed in the wake of the many imperialist endeavors before it, with apparently little lessons having been learned. Imperialism is the inevitable result of power devoid of wisdom and humility. A nation borne out of a revolution against empire and absolutism has itself devolved into a much more dangerous and immoral avatar of its former oppressor. This must change.

While Defense Secretary Mattis clearly acknowledged the need to transform the U.S. military and realign it in a direction more focused on fighting and winning a conventional conflict with the near peer adversaries he identified as Russia and China, one can only hope that he realizes how the U.S. military that he served in for decades, got to the deplorable state that it now finds itself in. The greatest enemy that the U.S. military has fought for the past seventy years is undoubtedly the military industrial complex that it is an integral component of. The Soviet Union, North Korea, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria were never as much of a threat to the U.S. Armed Services as the corrupt military industrial complex and the Deep State that serves as its guardian.

The United States military is in the weakest state of material strength and readiness since the conclusion of the Cold War. The conventional ground forces of the Army have been transformed into a force bent on occupation and counterinsurgency. Its heavy armored formations are in a state of disrepair and material inferiority vis-a-vis its most capable theoretical adversaries. The cornerstone of American power projection and intimidation, the aircraft carrier strike groups, are a sad shadow of their former self. The carrier air wing, the entire reason that an aircraft carrier exists in the first place, has devolved into a tool of increasingly limited utility, with an ever diminishing reach.

The corrupt military industrial system that permeates every facet of American economic, political and even cultural life has sucked the very lifeblood from the nation, eroded its morality, bankrupt its economic future, and stolen a generation of its most patriotic and selfless sons and daughters. While James Mattis acknowledges the challenges facing the national security of the United States, he clearly misattributes the blame and misidentifies the very real adversary. Russia and China are not existential threats to the continued welfare of the American state. James Mattis need only look in the mirror to see the real threat, for he has come to represent the cabal of special interests that enslaves the nation and constitution he has pledged to serve, and holds the remainder of the world equally hostage.

There is very little chance that the reforms mentioned in this analysis will be adopted, or that the United States will move in a direction that brings it back to its inception as a constitutional republic. The interests of the military industrial complex in promoting conflict, and maximizing financial profit will continue to steer the United States military, and the nation as a whole, on an unsustainable and self-destructive path. There is little doubt that if the Deep State pushes the nation to war against Russia or China, and likely an alliance of the two, that the United States military has ever been in a weaker position. Such a conflict would be of no benefit to any of the nations concerned, yet many potential flash points exist that could lead to a conflict, including the South China Sea, Syria or Ukraine. As the United States plays catch-up after decades of military adventurism, China and Russia have spent that same time patiently and judiciously gathering their strength. The scenario of a one-sided victory in favor of the United States is pure fantasy, existing only in the daydreams of the emperor who wears no clothes.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-11-09/why-us-military-woefully-unprepared-major-conventional-conflict

U.S. halting refueling of Saudi-led coalition aircraft in Yemen’s war

November 10, 2018

The United States is halting refueling of aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen, the United States and Saudi Arabia said on Friday, ending one of the most divisive aspects of U.S. assistance to the Saudi war effort.

Saudi Arabia, in a statement released by its embassy in Washington, said it had decided to request an end to U.S. aerial refueling for its operations in Yemen because it could now handle it by itself.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis backed the decision and said the U.S. government was consulted.

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The move comes at a time of international outrage over the murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and after Democratic and Republican lawmakers threatened to take action in Congress next week over the refueling operations.

Critics of the Saudi campaign – including Democrats who won control of the House of Representatives in elections on Tuesday – have long questioned U.S. involvement in the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and led to widespread famine in Yemen since it began in 2015.

“I’ve been calling for this for over three years,” said Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California.

“We shouldn’t be supporting coalition war crimes and I look forward to continuing to scrutinize the U.S.’s role in Yemen when we’re in the majority next Congress.”

Even as President Donald Trump’s administration has condemned Khashoggi’s murder, the White House has sought to preserve its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

A coordinated decision by Washington and Riyadh to halt the refueling could be an attempt by both countries to forestall further action by Congress.

Senators Todd Young, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, had warned the Trump administration was running out of time to act.

“If the administration does not take immediate steps… we are prepared to take additional action when the Senate comes back into session,” Young and Shaheen said.

CONTINUING U.S. SUPPORT

Beyond refueling, the United States provides limited intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition and sells it weaponry used in Yemen’s war.

Mattis said the United States would play a continuing role to help the Saudi-led coalition and Yemeni forces minimize civilian casualties and expand humanitarian efforts.

He also suggested plans to build up Yemeni troops.

“The U.S. and the Coalition are planning to collaborate on building up legitimate Yemeni forces to defend the Yemeni people, secure their country’s borders, and contribute to counter Al Qaeda and ISIS efforts in Yemen and the region,” Mattis said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Mattis had defended U.S. military support to Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen, when lawmakers weighed forcing the Pentagon to end Washington’s involvement.

Mattis argued that halting U.S. military support could increase civilian casualties, since U.S. refueling had given pilots more time to select their targets. He told them cutting off support could jeopardize cooperation on counter-terrorism and reduce American influence with Saudi Arabia.

Mattis also argued it would embolden the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and targeted commercial and military vessels off Yemen’s coast.

Still, a halt to refueling could by itself have little practical effect on the war. U.S. officials told Reuters only a fifth of Saudi-led coalition aircraft require in-air refueling from the United States.

In recent weeks, Mattis has appeared to voice a growing sense of urgency toward ending the conflict. At the end of October, Mattis joined U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in calling for a ceasefire.

United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths is aiming to convene the country’s warring parties for peace talks by the end of the year.

Saudi Arabia, in its statement, said its coalition was hopeful that U.N.-sponsored negotiations would lead to a negotiated settlement and “an end to the aggression by the Iranian backed Houthi militias’ against the Yemeni people and countries in the region.”

Reporting by Phil Stewart and Makini Brice in Washington and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; writing by Phil Stewart; editing by David Alexander, Cynthia Osterman, Sonya Hepinstall and Nick Macfie

Reuters

Japan and U.S. to formulate armed response to China threat to disputed islands, East China Sea

November 5, 2018

Japan and the United States plan to draw up an operations plan for a combined response by their armed forces to Chinese threats to the Senkaku Islands, government sources said Saturday.

Tokyo and Washington are already discussing how to respond in the event of an emergency on or around the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, the sources said, and aim to finish crafting the plan by next March.

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Senkaku Islands

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has said America’s commitment to defend Japan under Article 5 of the two countries’ security treaty extends to the Senkaku Islands. The article obligates the United States to help protect territory under Japanese administration in the case of an armed attack.

But the U.S. government has repeatedly said it will take no position on the issue of sovereignty over the Japan-administrated islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu.

By working out a plan to deal with a potential military conflict with China, Japan is hoping the United States will take a more active role regarding the sovereignty issue.

The plan being drawn up assumes such emergencies as armed Chinese fishermen landing on the islands, and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces needing to be mobilized after the situation exceeds the capacity of the police to respond, according to the sources.

The Self-Defense Forces on their own have studied how to respond to such threats. The focus of these intergovernment talks is how to incorporate the U.S. military’s strike capabilities, the sources said.

“Given that military organizations always need to assume the worst possible situation, it is natural for the two countries to work on this kind of plan against China,” said Bonji Ohara, a former naval attache at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing who is now a senior fellow at Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a Japanese think tank.

The negotiations between Japan and the United States have been taking place mainly within the framework newly created by the 2015 defense guidelines, called the Bilateral Planning Mechanism, or BPM.

The guidelines stipulate that the SDF and the U.S. military will “conduct bilateral operations to counter ground attacks against Japan by ground, air, maritime, or amphibious forces.”

The two countries already have combined operations plans in the event of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula and other situations.

Meanwhile, the two countries staged their biggest combat-readiness war game ever in and around Japan, with U.S. fighter jets darting over the Western Pacific on Saturday as the nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier joined Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship.

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USS Ronald Reagan

Japan and the United States have mobilized 57,000 sailors, marines and airmen for the biennial Keen Sword exercise — 11,000 more than in 2016 — with simulated air combat, amphibious landings and ballistic missile defense drills. Japan’s contingent of 47,000 personnel represents a fifth of the nation’s armed forces.

“We are here to stabilize, and preserve our capability should it be needed. Exercises like Keen Sword are exactly the kind of thing we need to do,” Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, the commander of the carrier strike group, said during a news briefing in the Reagan’s forecastle as F-18 fighter jets catapulted off the flight deck above him.

Eight other ships joined the carrier for anti-submarine warfare drills in a show of force in waters that Washington and Tokyo fear will increasingly come under Beijing’s influence.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is essential for stability in this region and the wider Indo Pacific,” Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa, the commander of the Japanese contingent, said aboard the Reagan

Based in Yokosuka, the Reagan is the biggest U.S. warship in Asia, with a crew of 5,000 sailors and around 90 F-18 Super Hornet fighters.

A Canadian naval supply ship is also taking part in Keen Sword, along with the frigate that sailed with the Reagan on Saturday.

Canadian participation is taking a bilateral drill that began in 1986 “into the realm of multilateral exercises,” Canada’s defense attache in Japan, Capt. Hugues Canuel said in Tokyo. Participation in Keen Sword, he added, reflects Canada’s desire to have a military presence in Asia.

Canada isn’t the only Western nation looking to take a bigger security role in the region. Britain and France are also sending more ships as China’s military presence in the South China Sea grows and its influence over the Indo Pacific and its key trade routes expands.

British, French, Australian and South Korean observers will also monitor Keen Sword, which began Monday and ends on Thursday.

Growing foreign interest in Asian security, including North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, coincides with greater Japanese willingness to back up its regional diplomacy with a show of military muscle.

Tokyo this year sent its biggest warship, the Kaga helicopter carrier, on a two-month tour of the Indo-Pacific region, including flag-waving stops in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Singapore.

The 248-meter-long (813.65-foot) Maritime Self Defense Force ship and its two destroyer escorts also conducted drills with a Japanese submarine in the contested South China Sea.

At the same time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has engaged China in dialogue to reduce tension between their militaries in the East China Sea and to increase economic cooperation between Asia’s two leading economies.

Amid a background of trade friction with Washington, Abe last month traveled to Beijing, the first such trip by a Japanese leader in seven years, for talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. Abe told them that China and Japan shared responsibility for regional security, including tackling the North Korean issue.

Japan, however, still views China as a potentially much larger and more challenging foe than Pyongyang as its expanding navy consolidates control of the South China Sea and ventures deeper into the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Beijing this year plans to spend 1.11 trillion yuan ($160 billion) on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan and about a third of what the U.S. pays for a military that helps defend the Japanese islands.

Keen Sword “remains an expression of the commitment of like-minded allies and partners. To really see what we can do in terms of demonstrating advanced capabilities together to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” the chief of U.S. naval operations, Adm. John Richardson, said Thursday from Australia during a telephone news briefing.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/11/04/national/japan-u-s-plan-armed-forces-response-china-threat-senkakus/#.W9_LlpNKhaQ

United Nations: Migrant surge ‘normal’, U.S. should not reinforce border

November 2, 2018

The caravan of migrants making its way through Mexico is “kind of a normal event” and the United States ought not to reinforce its border against them, a United Nations official said on Friday.

With days to go before mid-term elections, U.S. President Donald Trump has called the surge of people an “invasion”, ordered troops to the border and suggested any rock-throwing by migrants should be treated as equivalent to gunfire.

Joel Millman, a spokesman for the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), told a U.N. briefing in Geneva there had been similar caravans for many years, and the group was still hundreds of miles away from the United States.

“So (using) words like ‘invasion’ and things like that is assuming that this is a new phenomenon which is a drastic emergency, and I don’t think that anyone at IOM would share that view,” he said.

“This is kind of a normal event.”

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The caravan attempting to cross into Mexico. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Militarised frontiers tended not to deter people from crossing borders, he added. Instead, they increased the profits of criminal people-smuggling gangs and led to deaths among migrants.

“Militarising the border is not something we are ever in favor of,” he said.

The migrant group has become a major issue in campaigning for the elections on Nov. 6, when Republicans will seek to maintain control of both congressional chambers.

“We are calling for humanity and taking things away from politics,” Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said at the briefing.

Mexico on Wednesday put the size of the migrant group that left Honduras in mid-October at 2,800 to 3,000 people. Others have since followed.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday more than 7,000 troops would support the Department of Homeland Security along the Mexican border. Trump said as many as 15,000 could be sent.

Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Andrew Roche

Reuters

Migrants trying to turn people around before clashing with police
Migrants trying to turn people around before clashing with police. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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Members of the caravan cheering
Members of the caravan cheering. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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Mexican authorities holding riot shields
Mexican authorities holding riot shields. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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Migrants hit with tear gas
A woman with a child, both hit with tear gas. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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An officer ordering a man with his child to move
An officer ordering a man with a child in his arms to move away from the crowd. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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A migrant at the gate separating Guatemala and Mexico
A migrant at the gate separating Guatemala and Mexico. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
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Nigeria’s army uses Donald Trump video to show why it opened fire on a Shiite group

November 2, 2018

Nigeria’s army on Friday posted a video of US President Donald Trump saying soldiers would shoot migrants throwing stones to justify opening fire on a Shiite group this week.

“Please watch and make your deductions,” said the army in a post on its official Twitter account.

In the video, Trump warns that soldiers deployed to the Mexican border could shoot Central American migrants who throw stones at them while attempting to cross illegally.

© AFP | Nigeria’s army put the death toll at six, but the Islamic Movement of Nigeria said 49 of its members had been killed

“We’re not going to put up with that. They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” said Trump in remarks made on Thursday.

“I told them (troops) consider it (a rock) a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle.”

Nigeria’s defence spokesman John Agim told AFP that the army posted the video in response to criticism that its security forces had acted unlawfully.

The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) said 49 of its members were killed after the army and police fired live bullets at crowds who marched near and in the capital Abuja,

The army’s official death toll was six.

Amnesty International said Wednesday it had “strong evidence” that police and soldiers used automatic weapons against IMN members and killed about 45 people in an “unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police”.

The United States embassy in Nigeria said Thursday it was “concerned” and called for an investigation.

“The video was posted in reaction to the Amnesty International report accusing the army of using weapons against pacifist Shiite protesters,” said Agim.

“Not only did they use stones but they were carrying petrol bombs, machetes and knives, so yes, we consider them as being armed,” said Agim.

“We intervened only because the IMN members are trying to harm our people, they are always meeting us…at security check points and trying to provoke us, they even burned a police vehicle.”

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is almost evenly split between a mostly Muslim north — which is predominantly Sunni — and a largely Christian south.

Experts have warned the government that a heavy-handed response to the group risks sparking conflict in a volatile region where poverty is widespread.

IMN leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in custody since 2015, when an army crackdown killed 300 of his supporters who were buried in mass graves, according to rights groups.

Zakzaky is facing a culpable homicide charge in connection with the 2015 violence. He remains in jail despite a court order granting him bail.

AFP